Corporate America: What’s Happening to my Company??

I’ve heard said that when all advice, and all voices of reason within your life, are telling you with every ounce of their energy that what you’re doing is wrong—that the direction you’re headed will only lead to misery and defeat—that’s when you know you’ve made the right choice.

If that’s true, then it seems I’ve come to terms with at least one aspect of anxiety in my life, and it all started with a Twitter post from Pastor Rick Warren:

Worry is a waste of energy. It can’t change the past or control the future. It just makes you miserable today.

To which I posted my own take:

Actually, worry works really well. I mean, look how much stuff we worry about that never ends up happening!

Then:

Going 2 work this afternoon. Depending on circumstance, could lose my job today. Why doesn’t that bother me?? Maybe I should be worried! HA!

I know, it is rather flippant.  But, at the time, it got me thinking.  Especially when I realized that my Twitter account is tied to my Facebook account and all of my friends, and more importantly co-workers, and most importantly my wife, could be reading that post.  So I felt the need to elaborate a little:

Actually should clarify. Not looking to lose my job today. Just that DM (District Manager) is visiting and depending on what questions she asks, how upset she is at the lack of progress on an overwhelming workload, I may be a little too “honest”. Hey, someone needs to be.

Followed by:

I used to be proud to say I worked @ (name_of_company). It’s not the same company it was 2, 3 or even 1 year ago. It’s upset a lot of really good employees, many of whom have moved on simply because they couldn’t work under the conditions they were being presented with. Really. Good. People. And there are many more who have “quit” but are still working there. Really! Good! People!

Let’s understand something at the outset, I’m not writing today’s blog post to continue to bitch about my job.  That’s not my point here.  Besides, who doesn’t at some point or other feel frustrated, overworked and underappreciated at their job.  It’s the nature of the beast; especially in this economy.

No, my point here is how easily it was to write how I could very well have walked away from my job that day.  It felt freeing. I felt lighter. I was actually kind of excited.  Of course the prospect of being in my late forties, and having employment experience solely in the restaurant and retail fields hasn’t exactly got me jumping for joy at the prospect of job hunting: Again, especially in this economy. But it felt “right” to say that.  The position I have, or the company I work for, doesn’t define me anymore.

I have worked, and continue to work, with some of the best, most committed, hardest working people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. And I don’t say that simply because a few of them may someday end up reading this post. I say it because I think one of the most frustrating aspects of my job has been not only the failure to live up to my own level of expectation and work ethic, but seeing too many of my co-workers who feel the same way; watching the joy and fulfillment in a “job well done” seep out of their souls simply because they are no longer physically or mentally capable of doing it. Looking to me as their friend and their immediate supervisor for example and inspiration, and feeling nothing but tapped out.  The workload has reached critical mass. In fact, it has begun its slow, inevitable slip into the unattainable. The workload hasn’t shrunk at quite the same pace as the staff necessary to complete it.

Yet it also pains me to think this is the accepted direction of corporate America these days, let alone the corporate retailer that I work for: A company built on a philosophy of care and nurturing of its staff, of providing some of the best benefits and advancement tools in the business.

“Ahh”, some of you in the upper ranks of corporate America will say, “you’ve just hit on two of the most draining aspects of a business’ revenue and profits: employee benefits and a tenured staff.”

When did these turn into bad things?

Actually, I can answer my own question, at least for the corporation I work for: October 2008.  I remember it simply because we had NO Christmas rush that year and our corporate office was scrambling at the start of the next fiscal year (then February) to reign in all costs, primarily payroll, simply to make ends meet.  I understood that.  But then the cuts happened again the next year. Which was a concern, but I understood that as well.

But then it happened the next year (2010). And we all went, “Hunh?”

And then it happened this year, and we all went, “Wait a minute!”

I think the march on Wall Street and the protests in front of the stock exchanges is just the beginning. Sure, the network news organizations are going to find and interview the most radical, outspoken, “newsworthy” college punk they can find and call this person the “typical spokesman” of the protestors. That’s their job.  But it’s also not accurate.  I think who you’ll find most present down there are the folks displaced by the very benefactors of corporate greed and investment the NYSE and NASDAQ represent.  The more “typical” protestor will be the same type of people I work with, or used to work with before they got either fed up or pushed out; the very people who’s sweat and toil earned every dollar that makes its way into those corporate stock portfolios. In other words, all the employees within all the corporations that finally went “Wait a minute!”

Is this the new reality? Of course it is. I’m smart enough to know we ain’t goin’ back to the way we were. But does that mean we’re stuck where we are?  What do you think? What do you see?

I see a big, ol’ world out there, with a big ol’ unwritten future.

Like Dan Miller, the author of the fine career book “48 Days to the Work You Love”, I see the future of commerce as smaller, more agile, more adaptable, faster and smarter. I also see the future as philanthropic.  I see the future as global encompassing yet neighborhood savvy.  I see the future in your own hometown, in your own backyard; benefitting your friends, your neighbors and ultimately yourself; benefitting those who have a need to fulfill and those simply in need.

Corporate America, you need to realize something.  We don’t need you. You need us. Not only do you need our labor to make and sell your products, but you need our dollars to buy them as well.  But by the time you do realize that we’ll be gone. We’ll have recognized that there are other needs in the world; needs that are greater than our own and needs that are FAR greater than yours. Our friends need us. Our neighbors need us. The poor, the disabled, the elderly.

No, I’m not quitting. I’m not walking away, walking out, giving up or getting even.  But I’m also not letting my job define me anymore. I’m not letting my superiors define me anymore. Where I work doesn’t matter.  How I work does.  What I do while I work does. 

And that’s what defines me.

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